Ecological time series across large spatial and temporal scales are essential for resolving and understanding anthropogenic and natural sources of variability and change in the oceans and the prediction of their consequences. However, virtually all marine ecological observational records are too short or infrequent for useful time series analysis, so that prediction of ecological responses to further perturbations is difficult or impossible.
Paleoecological, archeological and historical data (hereafter referred to as paleo data) are the only hope for obtaining the necessary long-term perspective. Paleo data are necessarily descriptive, rather than experimental, and differ from most observational ecological data in terms of the parameters measured and the common use of geochemical and paleontological proxies to estimate environmental and biological change.
There is much misunderstanding and suspicion of the potential rigor of paleo data among ecologists that hinders their application to help solve ecological problems.The purpose of this Working Group is to critically examine the potential of paleo records to extend marine ecological time series through a series of concrete examples.